How to cope with school anxiety
It’s Sunday night, the twelve-year-old Jenny sits in her room depressed. You’re already greying before the next day when she has to go back to school. Surely she will not be able to sleep again tonight. She is so afraid that she can not do the math exam, but she has learned it for weeks! Finn, eight years old, has locked himself in the schoolyard and cries. Once again, the nasty guys from the seventh grade insulted, persecuted and attacked him during the break. One of them even threatened him with a knife. What is he supposed to do? If he tells the teachers or his parents about it, the boys will still have him on the bunk, right? Fearful he cannot eat anymore lately, he has a headache all the time. And he can not concentrate on the Schularbeiten.
Jenny and Finn suffer from Schulangst. And share their problem with very many other boys and girls in Germany – to name exact figures is difficult since by far not all stakeholders with their problem “out”. Jenny, Finn, and their sufferers do not get clear with teachers, classmates, or the services they demand and even get sick of it.
For sensitive minds, it is often enough to get a handy schoolchild – perhaps teachers or classmates have made fun of a mistake when asking for advice on the board or in sports lessons. If something like this is felt as very bad, the anxiety center in the brain immediately remembers this unpleasant situation and signals danger when the affected child is called up next time or a simple exercise is to be made. If the student does not receive timely support in order to find out from this fear, the schoolchild can quickly determine.
Schulschwänzen as an avoidance problem
Children who are suffering from severe school-related anxiety, want to avoid school attendance anyway. According to experts, about five to ten percent of German students regularly go to school. It is clear that the course is far from helping: The grades are (still) worse, the transfer is not accomplished, in the worst case, it is no longer sufficient for a proper school graduation. For this reason, parents should not always make excuses, for example, because they believe they can help their child against their school-life. So the child has no chance to make the experience that he can overcome his fear.
What the school visit can do to hell
In the course of their school life, of course, any anxiety situations arise at any student. In the first few weeks of schoolchildren, it is often queasy. After all, everything is new: the classmates, the teachers, and perhaps the parents also spoke a little too often of the notorious “seriousness of life” that is about to begin. As a rule, however, such fears are self-evident relatively quickly – positive experiences are made which take the child’s fears that something can not be created.
However, if such experiences do not happen, when the child feels completely alone with his anxiety or becomes so great as to make the child sick, parents and teachers have to help. It can be about fear of class work, censorship or sports lessons or fear of nasty schoolmates.
Failure to fear: already widely used in children
Frighteningly many pupils live in constant fear that they will not be able to provide and fail to fulfill the required achievements – and perhaps even be exposed to the whole class. This is often the case, too, by the fact that the child or the young person in the classroom simply does not come along. The UNICEF children’s aid program has already set the alarm: According to new research, some 17 per cent of the 15-year-old schoolchildren have problems reading texts or solving simple computer tasks. In addition, there are more and more children with an immigration background who can not yet speak German well. Helpful measures, such as in Finland, where there are free tuition for weak pupils, have not yet established themselves. They seem to pay off:
Violence and bullying: now commonplace in schools
Physical and mental violence has now become a permanent, serious problem in many schools. A recent study reveals shock: nearly a third of all boys admitted on demand that they had beaten other students within the last six months. A further 13 per cent said that they had “blacked” classmates during this period, so they took them off by force or under the threat of violent phones, clothing or money. Even girls are among the perpetrators, though not as strong as boys.
Children who have other pupils to the enemy usually do not trust themselves in the school. They are verbally attacked, threatened, beaten or even marginalized and bullied. Once they are a “victim” in their class communities, they become an outsider – not for nothing is “a sacrifice” in many school yards an often heard abuse. The affected young people often lose their sense of self-esteem. If they remain alone with their problem, they despair more and more. Quite a few suicides have already existed among school bullying victims.
How do parents notice that their child suffers from school anxiety?
Sometimes it is not so easy for the parents to recognize real schooling with their child. Because most children do not talk about their own problems. Many also hide their difficulties behind an aggressive or even emphatically casual behavior.
Physical alarm signals can be recognized as the best. Children affected by Schulangst often suffer from a stomach or headache, diarrhea or nausea, some also drench at night. Other typical symptoms include dizziness and headache, sleep disorders and nightmares, morning weeping, and regular panic attacks. The child, however, can also show signs of behavior, such as pondering, exaggerated anxiety, aggression, absolute lustlessness, and supposed indifference. Sometimes, even when doing homework, the girl or the boy does not want to edit certain subjects or is noticeably unconcentrated and fidgety.
Typically, the symptoms mentioned decrease or disappear completely when the weekend starts or school holidays.
What can parents do?
In any form of schooling, the child needs help – even if he tries to avoid his problems. The first step of the parents should always be to look for the conversation. It is best to ask the father and / or mother exactly what the child is afraid of. The answers are likely to show quickly whether school anxiety is the cause of failure and high performance, or rather problems with the others, eg bullying.
Empathy of the parents: the best help for the child
Children and adolescents feel exactly how well the parents put themselves into them and how strong their compassion and sympathy are. It is therefore very important that the parents really stand by their child in this situation. They should take it in their arms and assure him that they love it the way it is – and that there are always fearful and difficult situations in life that can be overcome.
Then it is necessary to look at the specific problem from all sides and to consider: What could help? Experts advise parents to trust their child to find solutions. If possible, ask specific questions such as “What do you need to be able to defend yourself against the nasty guys?” Or “What could help you feel safer at the front of the board while calculating?” approaching and together with the parents find ways out of the Zwickmühle.
If the child is primarily afraid to fail and / or not satisfy the parents, they should question their own claims self-critically. Is there a sibling child, for example, who is regularly presented as a “model”? Does the father often emphasize how outstanding his or her own censorship was, and does it seem to him that the child is expecting equally good ratings?
In case of doubt: drive down ambition!
If the parents accept that a bad grade sometimes does not mean the sunset, the child will also be able to work more stress-free in school. However, if there are always five and six, the child could easily be at the wrong school. Parents should then ask: Does our child really go to high school? A consultation with the school teachers can be very helpful in such questions.
In the case of bullying or other conflicts with the classmates, it is useful to first consult the teachers, but sometimes also external experts. Bullying and other forms of psychological and physical violence in school are usually in the best hands with professional staff. Specific support programs for all possible specific problems can strengthen affected children and help them sustainably. The school knows the appropriate counseling and contact points and will usually show itself cooperatively when the parents ask for help.
If the problem can not be solved solely by talking and not by the involvement of teachers, and if the child continues to do poorly, parents should not hesitate to visit a child and youth psychologist. This can also identify the underlying family problems and, together with parents and children, show and develop solutions.
Sometimes, however, there is something quite surprising behind a child’s education. For example, a lesion or impairment of vision or hearing can be responsible for the fact that a boy or girl does not come in at school and is under increasing pressure. Trained employees of the corresponding contact points can easily recognize such limitations by means of special test diagnostics and enable rapid remedial action.
In general, school problems and the resulting fears are not a disgrace – either for the children concerned or for the parents. Unfortunately, performance pressure and competitive thinking have long since been introduced into the schools, so that nowadays nobody is standing alone with school anxiety. It is all the more important, however, to strengthen and support children in the challenges of school day. The good of our time is undoubtedly the fact that parents, who are also often under pressure today, are no longer left alone with the problems of their children, but that they are able to provide expert help for school problems of all kinds!
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